The first 25,000 fans who entered Nationals Park on Friday received a free Washington Nationals T-shirt courtesy of a prominent team sponsor–American University (AU).
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 27, 2015
I was surprised to learn about the partnership between the Washington Nationals and an area university when an agreement was first announced in 2012. At the time, I was an undergraduate student at The George Washington University and my only exposure to ads for my school were those in the newspaper and on television. Advertising to 3 million fans at Nationals Park over the course of a season seemed more exciting and effective.
AU proudly describes its target market in a press release calling D.C. baseball fans, “smarter than average, upwardly mobile, politically and socially vocal.” “In other words,” it states, “Nationals fans are wonks.”
In previous years, the AU T-shirt giveaway had a Nationals logo on the front of the shirt and the neologism “wonk” in much bigger print on the back of the shirt. In 2012, Dan Steinberg, writer for the DC Sports Bog, poked fun at the use of the word on the shirts calling it cliche.
“Wonk” appears much less prominently and in much smaller print this year. The text is also relegated to the right sleeve of the shirt. A large “Curly W” logo is displayed more prominently this year than it did in previous years and is around twice the size of the AU logo printed on the back of the shirt.
From a marketing perspective, AU pleases fans who added another Nationals shirt to their dressers while simultaneously making impressions with thousands of middle school and high school age children who will undoubtedly wear these shirts in hallways of their schools.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 28, 2015
The design of the only Nationals T-shirt giveaway of the season is not nearly as impressive as other shirt giveaways around the league. Fans at 13 Friday Mets home games, for example, have received shirts with more exciting designs like retired numbers and player silhouettes.
The T-shirt gets bonus points for being extremely easy to wave during the salute to the military.